So the word is that Richard Hatch – TV’s Captain Apollo from Battlestar Galactica – has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 71. There’s a little debate as to whether it’s fake news or real at the moment, but I think it’s real.
I met him once, and learned a minor life lesson
See, I didn’t like him. Not to speak ill of the dead, but I just didn’t think he worked on the final season of The Streets of San Francisco, and I, like everyone else, preferred Starbuck. Hatch was reputed to be very afraid of typcasting, and refused to do interviews on set in his uniform. Apollo was always a bit of a schlub at that, even in the new show. So ultimately the star of the show got overshadowed by his own sidekick.
I’d heard he was increasingly hard to work with, and there’s a scene in a later episode where his lines and Starbucks have obviously been reversed (Starbuck is unusually analytical, and Apollo is unusually emotional) just for one scene. I later found out that he’d been bitching about his lines, so they just flipped ’em on the fly.
I saw him in a few things after that. A movie or two, a TV movie about Jan and Dean, I think he had a sitcom about a detective school for a while. I have no idea if he was a good actor or not. I do not know. He could be brilliant. All I can say is that I never saw him in anything that really showcased his talents particularly well.
And of course I’d always heard he was a dick.
So I met him once after his first appearance on the New Galactica, and oh my gosh, he was probably the friendliest non-stoned person I’d ever met. He was very nice, he was very modest. When I told him I liked Zarek on the new BSG, he seemed genuinely surprised, he went out of his way for me to get a picture with him, he was happy to just hang out and talk despite being very busy, gave me his autograph without asking for any money, talked excitedly about other projects he had going on (“Great War of Magellan,” which never materialized) and above all was extremely, extremely modest.
And I felt really bad about thinking he was a dick all those years, based entirely on 3rd hand reports from people who never knew him.
Now, granted, he could have been acting. He’d just had his biggest break in 20 years, and getting out there and being really friendly was a good move, even if you hate the people around you, but I don’t think he was. I think he was just a genuinely nice guy who hadn’t had the easiest of careers, but was still doing what he loved.
Admittedly that’s a pretty minor life-lesson, but it was in the right time and place and frame of mind to make a big impression on me. He was the first celeb from my childhood that I had really strong impressions about that turned out to be utterly false, and it made me revisit a lot of stupid opinions. I had a very similar instance some time later with Gil Gerard, but that’s for another day.